Il Turco in Italia, Royal Opera, ROH, Covent Garden, April 2015Posted on 12 April 2015
Huge fun — and springtime is just the right time to revive this stylish and colourfully stylized production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. Its previous outing in 2010 was also in Spring, the four main principals being the same as today: Thomas Allen as poet and opera librettist Prosdocimo, Alessandro Corbelli as the cuckolded husband Don Geronio, Aleksandra Kurzak as his flighty and sexy younger wife Fiorilla, and Ildebrando D’Archangelo as Selim the Turkish prince.
In this delightfully contrived story, Prosdocimo, like Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, helps set in motion a series of romantic intrigues that in the end bring husband and wife together, and unite Selim with his beloved one-time concubine Zaida. At the same time, Don Geronio’s jealous young testosterone-fuelled friend Don Narciso lands up in this production finding love with another man. Then just as everyone is finally united, Fiorilla notices a handsome young man in swimming trunks and rushes after him — fun all the way through.
The brilliant libretto by Felice Romani, perhaps the greatest Italian opera librettist of his day, is complemented by glorious music from the 22-year old Rossini, written just over a year after his L’Italiana in Algeri. I’d forgotten how enjoyable this production is with the right glances, body language and comic timing, but with the silent mime before Act II other things suddenly came back, and the incident with a waiter caught between two chairs as Selim and Don Geronio get into conflict was once again a delight. This revival assisted by associate director Richard Gerard Jones has been honed to perfection, giving it a wonderful freshness and spontaneity.
And the singing was superb. The charming Aleksandra Kurzak, perfect for this type of Rossini role, made a beautifully playful Fiorilla with a lovely depth of tone. Those inimitable old masters Thomas Allen and Alessandro Corbelli, as Prosdocimo and Don Geronio, plus Ildebrando D’Archangelo as the Turkish prince, were perfection, and Barry Banks was a hoot as the ardently obtrusive Don Narciso, recreating a role he played in the original version of this production in 2005. Rounding out the cast were ROH young artists Rachel Kelly as a delightfully pretty Zaida and Luis Gomes as Selim’s confidant Albazar, both very well sung.
Fine singing and stage movement by the chorus, all under the excellent baton of Evelino Pidò. On a personal note my last Italian opera was ten days ago in Germany under a well-known British conductor who made it sound like Wagner, so what a refreshing pleasure it was to hear maestro Pidò give this music the lightness and life it deserves.
Performances continue on various dates until April 27 — for details click here.